theladyrose: (Default)
This line of Michael Giacchino's (albeit paraphrased) has stuck in my mind ever since the Academy composers talk from last week: "Melancholy doesn't have to be a depressing thing; what affects us most about it is how almost perversely beautiful it can be." I guess it sums up my mindset as of late.

My neighbor's plea hearing is tomorrow, and I know at least one of the DA's to whom I wrote actually read my letter because she had the courtesy to respond. I may be a secular humanist, but I think I might actually be praying tonight (early this morning?). For the more spiritual ones out there, I think his family would really appreciate any prayers and good thoughts you could send his way.

Essentially, aimless ramblings from here on out. )
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If the tickets are sold out for tonight's final panel for the Academy's Music Soundtrack series, I think I really will cry. I wanted to order tickets earlier but didn't because my coordinator for CIRCLE, the class I'm TAing next week, has rescheduled our orientation planning week THREE TIMES. And she lectures us about professionalism...

LA folk, have any of you ever been to the Linwood Dunn theater before? If you have, do you know what the seating capacity is? I'm really worried that the tickets will be sold out by the time I get there tonight; I'm leaving at 6:15 from South Central (USC) for an event that starts at 7 in hope that I can still buy tickets at the door.

Honestly, the only reason why I'm going is because of Michael Giacchino, he of Medal of Honor, Alias, Lost, the Incredibles, Mission: Impossible III and Ratatouille musical fame. You know, pretty much the only living composer I idolize whose life expectancy is predicted beyond the next 30-40 years (with the exception of [ profile] madbard, naturally). Out of all of the composers I follow, I know Giacchino's body of work better than anyone else's and have been following his career since he started working on Alias. I have every film soundtrack (as well as the MOH video game ones) that contains his music; if you rummage through my past LJ entries, the and the notes on my hard drive, you'll see my incomplete documentation of how I predicted what would happen next on Alias/how the music aurally illustrated the storyline within each episode. I think I'll keel over happy if I can ask him a question or get his autograph and possibly faint if I can get a photo with him afterwards.

I don't really have the time to do this, but carpe diem, right?
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As I've been listening to some new soundtracks from the library (which has a surprisingly classy Philip Glass selection; I now have the whole -atsi trilogy!) and inspired by some of [profile] swashbuckler332's recent recs, I'm listing a couple of my favorites as of late from random categories.  If it's possible, I swear I feel some of my reviewer "muscles" atrophied - I have a bunch more half-formed reviews I wanted to write scattered about on paper, on my computer and in my head; I'll get around to them when I can. 

I swear, once I get back to college I *will* track down Jon Burlingame (the Man from UNCLE soundtrack producer) and have lunch with him.  Spring term once I'm done with all of my core requirements, I will turn my entire schedule upside down if necessary so I can take that TV music course of his.

: Bernard Herrman Film Scores: From Citizen Kane to Taxi Driver, as conducted by Elmer Bernstein.  I normally dislike compilations as a whole, especially ones that are supposed to reflect a composer’s oeuvre, as they tend to include all of the main pieces you already have anyway or are totally butchered by an inept conductor.  Thankfully legendary composer Bernstein makes sure such an awful fate doesn’t befall Herrmann. The listener is treated to a delightful sampling of Herrmann’s compositions for Hitchcock, with a sprinkle of his best works from the post-Hitchcock era (I love Bernstein’s concert suite of Taxi Driver) as well as Citizen Kane, the masterpiece that was his start in the film industry. The selection of works balance familiar staples (the controlled chaos that is the main title fandango of North by Northwest, the driving title theme and infamous shower sequence from Psycho) with the less well-known (the jaunty but slightly off-kilter title theme from The Wrong Man, the haunting and reflective “Book People” cue from Fahrenheit 451).  This presentation strikes a balance between the contemplative and quietly revealing with sheer emotional intensity.  It helps that most of the pieces are difficult to find – where else will you find a rendition of “the Storm Clouds,” as conducted by Herrmann in The Man Who Knew Too Much remake?  Like Herrmann, Bernstein lends a lyrical expressiveness to the music without making it farcically overwrought while throwing in his unique brand of exuberance for his friend’s work.  My only minor quibble was with Vertigo’s “Scène d’Amour,” which has my favorite build-up out of all recorded versions of this cue, but soon loses steam once Madeleine is “revealed” again.  But on the whole, you can’t go wrong listening to a lovingly presented album of some of film's greatest music.

Runner-up: Festival de Cannes: 60th Anniversary has some of the best selections of late 20th century, hands down.  Most multi-decade “classic film” compilations pander to mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, featuring only a few well-known composers, with a couple of acknowledged Oscar dramas thrown in.  They generally focus on the 70’s onwards, feeding into John Williams and his stylistic ilk, and a couple other sentimental pop favorites (Marvin Hamlisch’s The Way We Were and “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic almost always appear, too).  The Cannes selections are far more worldly and much more stylistically intriguing – so many musical gems spanning genres that would otherwise be very difficult to find.  Kudos to the producers who thought of featuring the M*A*S*H title theme followed up by the title theme from Z.  If you ever want a quick sampler of great film music from around the world and across time, this would be a great place to start.

Best re-released score as conducted by someone else: Joel McNeely’s recording of Vertigo, written by the incomparable Bernard Herrmann, finally does justice to one of the most beautiful scores ever written after the original conductor Muir Matheson (curse you, studio musicians’ strike!) butchered.  I’ve written a fair amount about this score previously; though a few minor cues are missing, having an authentic loyal to Herrmann’s vision is far worth it.

Best animated feature: The Hayo Miyazaki-Joe Hisaishi director and composer partnership is easily the best in the film industry, rivaled only by the Alfred Hitchcock-Bernard Herrmann and Steven Spielberg-John Williams pairings.  Joe Hisaishi’s Howl’s Moving Castle is a delightful and charmingly atmospheric score that expresses the conflicts of loyalty in a beautifully understated way, reflective of the characters’ caution in revealing and giving themselves fully to others.  The soaring waltz theme captures the sense of adventure and wonder of the magical world in which Sophie finds herself. 

Runner-up: Michael Giacchino’s Ratatouille.  Giacchino’s strengths lie in his ability to tell a story musically – he recreates the film in the acoustic medium to heighten our understanding of what’s happening onscreen (because otherwise, how would you ever figure out the labyrinthine plot of Alias?  I have a number of entries dedicated to score analysis of a couple of episodes, although most of my score notes are still on post-its.).  The music don’t just heighten emotion or evoke an atmosphere; they are an aural transcription of the story.  Yes, you’ve got a fair number of leitmotifs to represent the characters and certain locations (Remy and Linguini cooking, Linguini and Collette, the rat colony, Gusteau), but what makes them interesting is how they interact with each other as they do in the film.  Giacchino takes great delight in mixing musical pastiches (the “welcome to Gusteau’s” cue at the start of the movie with the Marseilleise leading into a jaunty Left Bank accordion is brilliant), but I confess I still prefer the deeper thematic substance and homage to orchestral jazz that was the Incredibles.

Best movie whose only redeeming feature is the score: John Barry’s The Specialist.  One might be initially wary of the reliance on a predominant theme that characterizes some of Barry’s later works (same scoring approach as the Scarlet Letter) - more of a European approach for a mediocre American would-be blockbuster.  There’s a quietly smoldering anguish in the jazzy notations of recurring refrains of “Did You Call Me.”  As Elmer Bernstein has remarked, very rarely is a film score pure jazz as the spirit of jazz requires improvisation.  Barry’s music is well aware of the stylistic constraints, and the longing we hear is all the more heightened by the fleeting semblance of musical freedom.  The emotional chaos and literal violence (the titular character specializes in explosives) are underlined by a restrained, subtle sense of form that lacks the space to grow.
theladyrose: (Default)
You hear that boom? That's my mind blowing. Only one episode EVER left!

Spoilers like car bombs )
theladyrose: (Default)
Due to the fact that Giacchino's obviously not the only one whose music is used for Alias now despite having sole credit, it's getting even more difficult to analyze the music. Especially since I can't really take notes as Ellie immediately deleted the episode after viewing. Needless to say this review will have a little less score analysis than usual.

Spoilertastic for the past few season 5 episodes; you've been warned )
theladyrose: (Default)
There's a nice feature article on the scoring sessions for Michael Giacchino's (Alias, Lost, the Incredibles musical composer) Mission: Impossible III not to be confused with SoundtrackNet's more in-depth first listen feature. It's a nice overview of the score, some of the work that goes into the score, and Giacchino's career. The soundtrack comes out on May 9th if I remember correctly.

The original link is here.

For those who don't have a NYT subscription, The full article is posted underneath the cut )

cross posted to [ profile] filmscore
theladyrose: (Default)
You know you need a social life when you dream about the object of your film score fangirlish idolatry. And it's a pessimistic one involving Caribbean revolutionaries. Must I be this cynical even in my subconscious?

On a very different note: it's sort of scary to know what was on my future classmates' college applications and have no idea who they are as people.

But on the bright side, the guys who will be my future classmates seem to be impressed that I know so much about James Bond. Go figure.
theladyrose: (Default)
I'm generally not the bragging type, but it was so worth cramming nine post-it notes of music score notes from the last Alias episode ("The Horizon") down to predict what would happen tonight. Score analysis really does work!

And all of my predictions were right! If only I could find all of the predictions that I made-I swear I posted a bunch up on my LJ a few months ago, but I can't remember which tags they're under...

You hear that boom? That's my mind blowing (i.e. spoilers at your own risk) )
theladyrose: (Default)
Reasons why I love today (and other moments of this past week):

1. I got an e-mail from Danielle, my Harvard summer roommate! I've been meaning to contact her for ages except I lost her e-mail address. But now we can actually talk again and it will be the next best thing to getting boba every night with the Matthews gang. Summer nostalgia is starting to wash over me.

2. (Note: non-classmates will be totally confused by this next point, which describes a slighty bizzare IHL tradition.) I was finally ringled this past Wednesday by Alecia! I never knew that she was such a great baker; she even figured out how to replicated the 007 Walther PPK in chocolate chips on my ringling cake! It was so gorgeous that I actually took a picture of it.

3. The winter concert this past Tuesday-I can't believe that was my last winter concert ever. And the regular choir sang two of the Majestic Britain tour trip pieces, "Ose Shalom" and "For The Beauty of the Earth." The few old Britain trippers waiting backstage and I couldn't help but join in. It's so strange to think that we seniors are the last class to have participated on that trip and have gone through some of the best two weeks of my life. I really hope that we can do a sort of "farewell" concert even though we've only got one unreliable alto (*coughs* me). I like the idea of going around to random train stations and singing like we did at the Bayswater Station.

4. This week's episode of Alias for the uber awesome score this week, a great blend of season 1/season 2 thematics and orchestral approaches and the fresh material for season 5. There's some really awesome development of the season 4 mission theme (love the funky low electric guitar and flute mischeviously calling each other), plus the season 2 "Balboa and Cluber" and "Hitting the Fan"-style circular figure in the strings for the fight sequences. And I can't forget to mention the delicious quotes of the Sark and Sloane motifs. For the quieter moments the lovely season 1 "rebuilding her life/S&V love" theme (best encapsulated in the season 1 soundtrack's "Double Life") at the end plus a little quote of the new "Sydney rebuilding her life" theme. Not that he needed to prove himself, but Giacchino is really hitting his stride in getting his score to reflect the blend of the old school seasons 1-2 feel with the new developments of season 5. I really hope that Giacchino will release a season 4 or 5 soundtrack (I honestly don't remember s3 except for "Almost Two Years" as the new love theme). And then there are some squee! plot developments. It's just a little sad that a TV show can brighten up my day as much as it is now.

5. Bead club and assembling bead kits for kids in hospitals. It's a terribly girly project but the hands-on work is incredibly soothing after dealing with random stress of which I now have none really to speak of.

6. Finding new listening material: due to my vaguely magpie-ish "Oooh, shiny new music! Must pretend to analyze and stick on repeat excessively!" tendencies I have discovered the wonders of legally downloading music via MSN. Surprisingly I'm pretty impressed with their selection-I finally have an excellent complete recording of the Nutcracker (whose orchestrations are more nuanced and whose tempo is more in line with the energy of the work than the London Philharmonic Orchestra's "Highlights") and the film versions of various songs from the Sound of Music. The Bernard Herrmann sampling is quite extraordinary for a mainstream commercial enterprise; yay for finally getting his Jane Eyre composition and some of his chamber music! I could swear that he incorporates thematic material from Vertigo and Marnie with some hints of "Conversation Piece" from North by Northwest, but I'm not quite sure if it's meant to be a chamber music adaptation of those film scores.

And last but definitely not least:

7. My film score composer of choice, Michael Giacchino, is being nominated for two Grammy awards for the Incredibles. It's actually pretty pathetic how much I have been dancing around my room since hearing this lovely news (she notes as her friends list starts backing away from their computer screens, disturbed by this extreme fangirling). Once the winter holidays begin I might finally have the time to design those fangirl T-shirts.
theladyrose: (Default)
Who wants to help me translate Italian film score terminology by Thursday night?

I didn't think so :P For some reason I can't find either of my Ennio Morricone compilations for my end of the term Italian project this Friday, which really worries me. Sometimes I think my room is a giantic void that swallows up my soundtracks and spits them out two years later. It's a very disturbing trend.

The end of the world might be emminent as I did a week's worth of integral and differential equation homework in advance and enjoyed it quite a bit.

And *now* I have to find out that Michael Giacchino is married...I think. Actually, I can't seem to find any proof of said marriage, so perhaps there's still hope for me.

You didn't think I was being serious, did you? Every composer needs a devoted fangirl, I suppose :D
theladyrose: (Default)
Some people figure out crossword puzzles; I attempt to analyze incidental music for clues on what will happen in the next episode of a TV series.

It's almost disturbing how happy this makes me. I tried counting all of the post-it notes I've used for my findings for one show alone (I'm not even counting movies); it's somewhere around 35 at the very least. I would probably be a lot faster if I actually knew music theory and/or real terminology, but there are some really nifty cross-references that I'd like to trace further. In other words, I actually have a semi-legitimate excuse to wath TV!

One of these days I really need to transcribe and compile my notes onto Karen, my beloved laptop, so that I can actually read what I have. I'd hate to see my Alias project end up like my Incredibles (which I'm still working on; it's been about ten months so far and I've been slacking off on that)-I'm never writing down anything in pencil ever again.

In other words, I'm in the midst of finding every bottle of vitriol I can for my Newsweek letter to the editor for dissing my composer-god, Michael Giacchino (See the snippet on the extinction of the TV title song article near the beginning. The idiots can't even tell the difference between a song and a main title theme). If only I didn't completely and utterly botch the one and only article I've ever gotten published...

double life

Sep. 6th, 2005 11:34 pm
theladyrose: (Default)
Compiling several months of Giacchino reviews and commentary is taking much longer than I had expected. Add a good hour of outside reading on past interviews, and I'm discovering that I'm just a bit behind where I'd like to be with a flurry of editing. What's shocked me is how much I've already written about the guy-I have no idea how to trim it all down to a managable article that normal people can actually understand. I pretty much gave up on trying to reuse my old material and have been coming up with fresh stuff.

It's the first public collision of my life as a "normal" high school student and as an amateur film score reviewer. In my mind I've always seen them (both of me?) as seperate people. For one thing, my reviewer self tends to be much snarkier and more intelligent than I tend to appear in real life. It's just really hard for me to find friends who aren't completely bored out of their minds when I start talking about film music. The second I start talking about Wagnerian chromaticism in Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo, Ellie starts rolling her eyes and tells me to go work on my music history independent study proposal. And then there are a lot of really sexist reviewers who enjoy telling me that I'm a complete idiot for not knowing how to use audio editing software and that I'm a total snob when I compare the re-emergence of neo-romanticism and techno in modern music. What the hell? Their hypocrisy is only funny for so long before I start searching for the nearest heavy object.

Pity that no one's probably going to end up reading this article, because Michael Giacchino really rocks as a composer and I'm not so secretly trying to get him hired for...well, I'll talk about that some other time.
theladyrose: (Default)
Techno is not the root of all musical evil.

To be honest, I've never believed that techno was the worst thing to happen to film music; I personally am not a fan of early 30's to late 50's film music which subscribes to "the Danube School of Music," to quote from Henry Mancini. "Sappy 1000 Violins Syndrome" for sentimental moments (i.e. non-location, non-suspense and non-action) is still a big issue today. But there are limitations on to how well electronica can replicate live instrumental music. I remember reading somewhere that even with an electronic synthesizer piano which plays each note perfectly without all of the tiny little wavelengths of notes that are close in frequency to the main note, listeners still prefered the original instrument because it sounded more interesting. The same applied to string instruments, if I remember correctly. There is a unique emotional quality to these tiny fluctuations in frequency that electronica simply can't replicate. The Danube School, for better or for worse, has ingrained upon society the standard of strings and occasionally woodwinds to carry the melody lines for the more emotionally complex scenes.

My favorite modern scores, and even some of my favorite retro scores, manage to combine "traditional" instrumental writing for the majority of scoring with live instrumentals and electronica for suspense and action cues. For example, take John Barry's the Living Daylights, the last James Bond score he wrote as of this point in time *fingers crossed for Casino Royale* As the All Music Guide review for TLD remarked, this score is one of the most contemporary sounding action/adventure scores of the 80's in its sparing use of synthesizers for key action cues. The drum loops in "Ice Chase," "Necros Attacks" "Hercules Takes Off" work beautifully as the rhythmic core; the emphasis is still on the brass and strings. For the suspense cues like "the Sniper Was A Woman," "Koskov Escapes," "Airbase Jailbreak" and "Afghanistan Plan," the strings dominate with brass and percussion accompaniment; these 18-year-old cues could just as easily fit into a 21st century thriller. As much as I love Bill Conti's For Your Eyes Only, the heavy emphasis on synthesizers and disco for the cues in the first half of the film make the soundtrack a retrospective of 80's disco masked as action music. I won't even get started on David Arnold's the World is Not Enough and Die Another Day because I'll burst a few blood vessels in the process.

Phillip Glass has also done some interesting work with electronica which of what I've heard I've liked tremendously, but his focus is more on expanding the limits of melody and thematic development rather than on tone color.

But with Arnold and other action film composers, the orchestra has been virtually tossed out, often at the behest of producers seeking a quick profit, for the cheaper electronic instruments. What happens is that it becomes nearly impossible and not worthwhile to distinguish the music from one action film to another. An experimentalist musical trend has become the new cost-effective standard, reducing aural art into a pre-programmed set of rhythms and melodies jumbled into different orders to present the illusion of originality. Thankfully there are composers like Michael Giacchino, David Holmes, and John Powell who rework occasional techno elements for a contemporary feel into seamless transitions with live instrumentals carrying the main melodies.

Semi-related links:

Cool Unused Composer's Choice Scoring for the Bond movies

OK, I'm advertising the above site because it's been my friend's pet project for the past few months. Essentially the edited scenes include the composer's intended cues that appear on the remastered soundtracks of the film instead of the in-film versions, but the research into the musical selection choices is pretty good.

Extremely cool remixes of From Russia With Love and On Her Majesty's Secret Service with great fan trailers

Some of the remixed techno elements sound a little obviously worked in, but the overall effect is rather pleasing and pretty professional sounding for a fan remix.

Yeah, I've gotten a lot of work done today...
theladyrose: (Default)
My lovely post about why Michael Giacchino ought to score Casino Royale was so cruelly wiped out when my laptop froze on me. Gah! There goes an hour and a half of trying to compile my Giacchino reviews.

The prospect of leaving Harvard is worrying me already; now I feel that I need to weigh my time carefully for fear of letting a few idle hours slip past. I can't picture not randomly wandering into friends' rooms at semi-strange hours of the evening to get frozen yogurt or boba or to make a trip over to the Trader Joe's along the river. I actually bother to motivate myself to interact with people in person more than twice a day. The greatest surprise for me is that people actually bother to do stuff together. Back in Pleasantview during the weekends, nobody ever asks, "Hey, do you want to go out to get lunch?" or "Want to do something, anything, just to get out of the house?" It could be my own lack of initiative, of course, but this whole face-to-face interaction really is something I could get used to. I can't picture not being able to randomly wander around at night.

I've been somewhat surprised to realize that the actual Harvard undergrads here are fairly normal human beings-and to be honest, a lot of them are a lot stupider than I expected, or perhaps they really tone down on emitting intellectual vibes outside of class.

Perhaps I'll go to bed before 3:30 AM, but that's highly unlikely considering my baseline behavior at the moment.
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Happy belated Victoria Day!

Among other things, I nearly got into my first serious car accident, but thankfully there's no damage to either party. I was waiting at the second to last stoplight on my way to my morning carpool meeting spot when I felt a sickening lurch forward as the car behind me. The guy who had bumped into the back of my car had drifted forward slowly, so the impact was fairly low. For the remainder of the red light I saw through the rearview mirror that he was holding his face in his hands and hitting his hands against his forehead. He followed me into the carpool meeting spot parking lot and apologized profusely. I noticed that he had some sort of brace on his right foot and ankle; perhaps he felt a pain there and accidentally let go of the brake? We inspected the nonexistent damage to both of our cars, and I assured him that he didn't need to worry about anything and to be more careful before he drove off.

As shallow as this is about to seem, he was pretty cute and came across as being very sincere. I should have gotten his number (telephone and licence plate) but I didn't because I didn't want to cause more trouble for everyone as there was no damage. After this incident, I have determined that as of this year, I have talked to a guy approximately once every three months. Not bad for a six year attendant of the Nunnery :P

It has suddenly struck me that if I ever want to figure out what bits of the Incredibles Michael Giacchino actually scored, I have to listen in depth to his other scores to familiarize myself more with his style. Really I am attempting to use semi-intellectual rationalizations to justify my soundtrack binge habits and my incredible urge to go get the seasons one and two Alias soundtracks. Who knew that there could be hope for balancing techno electronica with traditional live orchestra...

One of these days I really will make my Michael Giacchino fangirl T-shirt.

I have only a few more hours left to enjoy being my current age. The thought is somewhat unsettling, and it will probably take me a few more months for me to realize that I don't have much longer to be a teenager. How strange...

A lot of people seem to be having their birthdays, i.e. within May 20-May 25; I can think of at least nine: my advisor, Alex, Renee, Grant, T, Chrissie, Emily M., the drama teacher, [ profile] zedhaus. This is probably the only reason why I haven't forgotten any of them!


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